Miracle on 34th Street: Saying Goodbye

The end of a show is always bittersweet. On the one hand, the thirty-two talented actors in "Miracle on 34th Street" have spent an awful lot of time together since September. They've spent an awful lot of time away from their families, friends, favorite TV shows, and other holiday activities. They've braved blizzards to put on their show. They've passed the flu around, and the show has gone on.

On the other hand, one of the most compelling, interesting, heartwarming reasons to do theatre is the relationships you form with your fellow actors. Sometimes you've known them for a long time, but discover something new. Sometimes it's a person you've never met, and probably wouldn't have met had you not both been crazy enough to audition for the same show. Whatever it is, you find a spark, a connection, a commonality that draws you together, and hopefully remains once the show closes.

Saying goodbye is always the hardest part of closing a show for me. As a director, I try to draw away as soon as the show opens. My job is, after all, done. It's a good director's obligation to give the product to the actors and the stage manager and fade away into fond memory. That's easier said than done. I've grown to appreciate all thirty-two of these wonderful actors. I marvel at their passion and their dedication. I will miss them now that the show is closing.

Like you (I hope), I will remember their performances and their passion, and that will be one more gift to be grateful for this holiday season.

Ready Or Not...

Tonight, the cast of "Miracle on 34th Street" steps before its first official audience. It's been gratifying to me, and to them, I think, to have the few spectators who have wandered through tech week actually laughing at the jokes and appreciating the moments we have worked so hard to create. For those of you who don't know, "tech week" is extremely difficult for everyone. The designers and technicians are doing a lot of tough work in an extremely limited amount of time. The crews are adjusting to corrections being thrown at them constantly. The stage manager is removed from his seat right up front and put in a dark, lonely booth, connected only by a head set to the rest of the action.

And the actors. Poor things. They're trying to remember everything we've worked so hard on for the last four or five weeks, plus seeing lights, hearing sound effects, moving furniture pieces, and wearing costumes for the first time. Every time I direct a show, I marvel at how well everyone adjusts to tech week. I always secretly wonder if I do as good a job when I'm acting as the people I'm seeing in front of me. I doubt it.

The nights have been late, the tensions have been high, and the challenges have been escalating.

All those things only make me admire the thirty-two people you're going to see in "Miracle on 34th Street." They're telling this rich, warm story in a spare style that emphasizes the humanity and simple charm. They're working so hard and making it look so easy.

So I hope tonight's audience really likes the show. But even if they don't, I do.

Miracle on 34th Street: Patience

This is the part of the process in which I remind myself to be patient with myself, and in which I marvel at the patience of others. Many of the actors in the play have most their lines memorized (two weeks ahead of schedule) and are gallantly struggling to be "off book" as much as they can be. This means they have to be patient with themselves, but their fellows need to be patient with them, as well. Almost no one is word-perfect at this stage.

At this point, we're doing longer sections of the play, moving from small scenes into large group combinations, spending less time on some small moves that used to take us a while. Things seem to fly together--sometimes seamlessly, sometimes nonsensically--and we have to remind ourselves that while this might not be exactly the way it will look to the audience, we're moving toward that goal with greater speed and proficiency.

The designers and staff have been working behind the scenes, independently, and have come up with plans, lists, products, and all manner of fun things for me to look at and approve of. I'm able to see how things in the show will look to the audience. I'm always amazed by how frequently this meets or exceeds the visions I had in my head.

We're all spending longer periods of time together. It's getting darker earlier. We're getting tired from work and school and longer rehearsals. We're spending less time with our families. We're beginning to see what being with these people for twenty performances over the course of four weeks will feel like. And we're adjusting.

One of the themes of "Miracle on 34th Street" is having patience in the belief that your dreams and wishes will come true--if not right now, then eventually. And one of the things I'm enjoying most about directing "Miracle on 34th Street" is watching patience pay off for myself and for all the talented people involved in this production.

Now I'm impatient for all of you to see it!

Miracle on 34th Street: What's It All For?

We're now in our third full week of rehearsals for "Miracle on 34th Street," and I am touched and impressed by the levels of talent, dedication, and passion displayed by this huge, enthusiastic cast.

This is always around the time in the process when I begin to ask myself, "Why am I doing this?" The hours are long, the pressure is fairly intense, and none of us is going to get rich or famous from this. I always come up with the same answer.

That is, I'm doing this (directing, acting, producing, whatever) because I HAVE to. I can't imagine not using the talents I've been given and the lessons I've learned. I believe we're given gifts so that we can share them, to touch the lives of others, to connect with other people, to make this big, crazy world a bit smaller and cozier. As Maria says in "The Sound of Music," the "love in your heart wasn't put there to stay/love isn't love 'til you give it away."

I think the thirty-three people you'll see onstage in "Miracle on 34th Street" are doing this play because they want to share with you their enthusiasm for and love of live theatre. They want to spend time doing something they enjoy and are good at, and want you to share in that enjoyment. They want to introduce you to, or reacquaint you with, a wonderful, moving, inspirational story with a holiday theme that transcends any particular religion or belief system. They're also having fun.

We have three different families appearing in this production together. We have two sets of BFFs. I can't think of a more powerful familial bond than being in a play together. Unless it's seeing a play together. Especially a play like this, with its themes of the importance of family, and choosing the people you love in the world and sharing your hopes and beliefs with them.

What's it all for? It's all for you, it's all for love, and it's all to make this theater, this community, this world a better place!

Come see the show!

Miracle on 34th Street Director's Blog: Beginning

No matter how many shows I do in a calendar year, and no matter when during that calendar year I start a show, the first day of rehearsing a show always feels like the first day of school, for good and for bad. For bad, there's the sickening, sinking fear you're not going to be good enough. There's the ache of not spending enough time with your spouse/kids/pets for the next six weeks. There's that worry about how much good TV you're going to miss. OK, the networks are making that last one much easier. Thank you.

For the good, there's the excitement of meeting new friends and seeing old ones. There's the thrill of picking out an outfit for your first day. (Yes, I do this. Don't you?) Ultimately, there's the prospect of building and creating something brand new, vibrant, delightful. And there's the belief that you're going to learn something, grow, achieve.

After a busy, anxious week of preparations and auditions, we're starting rehearsal for "Miracle on 34th Street" tomorrow at Lyric Arts. I'm overcome by all the talented people who have assembled. Thank you to all who auditioned, who contributed to my anxiety this week. I'm thrilled to work with thirty-three actors from the ages of five to seventy-something. I'm eager for everyone to see this show.

And I'm curious. Does anyone else feel this way at the beginning of a rehearsal process?

Cristopher Tibbetts is directing Miracle on 34th Street at Lyric Arts this winter.